Most of us have grown up in an urban environment drinking water from the faucet, water bottles, and other sources that have been treated and brought to us. Because of this, our immune systems are less adapted to combat waterborne diseases than someone who has grown up relying on the local river as their source of drinking water.
The water looks clean because it’s runoff from the melting snow in the High Country. But waterborne diseases such as Giardia and E-Coli are common in our natural water sources, especially in California. In some areas, it might be safe to drink straight from the stream, but if it’s always a safer bet to filter your water than to risk getting sick.
CAN I USE ANY FILTER?
No, the filter you use at home to filter tap water is designed to take out contaminants such as chemicals and to remove sediment, not biological contaminants like Giardia. You need a water filter that is designed for camping and backpacking. There are many options on the market! From larger complex systems to more light and affordable ones. The system you choose to use is entirely a personal choice. but you definitely need one. Keep scrolling to see my favorites.
CAN I STILL SWIM IN THE LAKES AND STREAMS?
Yes! Go ahead, splash and swim, just be careful not to swallow the water.
But if you are in a place with warnings about waterborne illnesses, you always want to heed those warnings. If you have had diarrhea or vomiting in the last 48 hours, do not swim in lakes, ponds, streams, or rivers. This will spread the contamination to the water source and to others.
WHAT IS GIARDIA?
Giardia (or giardiasis) is a parasite that infects the intestines of humans and animals.
Giardia started around one to three (or more) weeks after infection and may cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas, bloating, frequent loose and pale greasy stools, nausea, weight loss, and fatigue. Symptoms can last for four weeks or longer. Often you can be infected and have no symptoms. In some cases, symptoms can even return after you’ve started to feel better. If you think you may have it, see your medical health provider for testing, advice, and treatment.
WHAT ARE SOME WATER FILTER THAT ARE DESIGNED FOR THE WILDERNESS?
I thought you’d never ask! There are a few options depending on what style you’re looking for.
As Water Bottles
The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle ($33-$50) resembles a standard reusable water bottle. It’s a hard plastic, you just dip into the stream, fill up, attached the lid with the filter and go. It also comes in different colors!
If you’re looking for a water bottle style, but one that offers the flexibility to compress it and squeeze it, the Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Water Filter Bottle ($45) is a great option.
Filter Into Your Main Bottle or Bladder
The Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filter System ($29-$40) is a great option to be able to fill up the pouch (or multiple pouches), then attach the water filter and squeeze it into your water bottle or hydration reservoir.
The Katadyn Hiker Pro Clear Microfilter ($85) is quick and easy to use, you never even have to get your hands in the water! It’s only 11 ounces.
Another one of my favorite filters is the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter. I love this one because you can filter water into a bottle like a Nalgene or you can filter through your hose right into your bladder. Read through my review of MSR water filters here.
**Follow proper care and protocols of each water filter to ensure longevity and effectiveness.